New Study: Breathing This Way Could Lower Blood Pressure in Minutes

Updated: Jan. 29, 2024

A recent study highlights the connection between breath and blood pressure with a "potentially clinically relevant" discovery.

Breathing is probably one of those involuntary physiological functions that, in many cases, doesn’t require a great deal of thought unless you’re dealing with a respiratory condition or significant stress (in which case, you might consider this cyclic breathing technique). Your rate of breathing, along with blood pressure and digestion, are examples of processes that your body regulates as part of the autonomic nervous system.

However, new research suggests how you breathe can have broader implications. Are you a nose-breather or a mouth-breather? How you breathe can have unconscious effects such as your blood pressure, according to a November 2023 study conducted by cardiovascular and applied physiology researchers from Florida State University.

Their research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, suggests that choosing to breathe through your nose could be used to lower blood pressure—at least temporarily—and could potentially be employed therapeutically. The study involved 20 adults who were all in good health and had blood pressure readings at or below 140/90 mmHg (which equates to Stage II hypertension, a condition clinicians take seriously). Normal blood pressure is at or below 120/80 mmHg.

The participants were asked to breathe through their noses for five minutes, and then through their mouths for five minutes. Blood pressure readings and other cardiovascular metrics were measured in the last minute of each time period. Nose breathing versus mouth breathing was also studied during a few different exercise tests.

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The study determined that “nasal compared with oral breathing improved several physiological and subjective variables at rest and during exercise.” Breathing through the nose at rest was found to reduce overall blood pressure but only affected the diastolic number, the bottom part of the blood pressure reading.

While the upper number, systolic blood pressure, is often considered the more important of the two blood pressure values in terms of the effect on health, future research could help determine when nose breathing can be used to manage or improve blood pressure readings. Overall, the research team suggests nose breathing in certain situations could be heart-protective, and further study and use cases are warranted. The researchers concluded, “We interpret the collective data to suggest that nasal compared with oral breathing provides modest, but potentially clinically relevant, improvements in prognostic cardiovascular variables at rest.”

The researchers also noted that ratings of exertion and breathlessness appeared to be lower during nasal breathing, though it was a metric they didn’t directly measure. “With the present results in mind, future work can address any potential connections between these respiratory variables and BP (blood pressure) changes by simultaneously measuring additional variables,” they said.

For more on managing blood pressure without the use of medications, read 7 Drinks That Lower High Blood Pressure and New Study: Eating More of This Fruit Could Lower High Blood Pressure Risk by Nearly 40%.